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Celtics look to Bill Murray for help.

May 16, 2009
The same day: over and over again.

The same day: over and over again.

Remember in Groundhog’s Day when Bill Murray realizes what’s happening to himself? That he’s living the same day over and over and over again? Bill then just goes on a suicidal streak to keep testing what he knows: he jumps off a building, drivers over a ledge (with the groundhog), and of course the most iconic scene in the movie: sits in a filled bathtub and drops in a (plugged) toaster.

Entering our fourth Game 7 in the last 13 months sort of feels like Bill in GH’s Day: we are living in this same do or die Game 7 at home after losing Game 6 on the road: Atlanta ’08, Cleveland ’08, Chicago ’09, and now Orlando ’09.

Bill finds himself living the same day repeatedly despite his efforts to change the course. For the majority of the movie while Bill is living out this revelation that it’s the same day, he causes all of his own peculiar and detrimental situations. In other words, he is his own worst enemy.

The Celtics feel you, Bill.

The experience tests Bill and in the end he emerges victorious: it’s a film about getting better by looking at one’s self to learn how to make the best of every situation. Unlike most people in our world, Bill gets an endless amount of second chances and to be able to learn from these experiences.

This is where the Celtics need to feel you, Bill. We need to take advantage of these chances to get better for the next test that lies ahead. In this case: Cleveland waiting in the wings. Let’s take a look at some of the places where the Celtics need to look inward and solve its own personal flaws to emerge victorious:

This is the Rondo we need: aggressive to the paint and efficiently running the offense.

This is the Rondo we need: aggressive to the paint and efficiently running the offense.

Consistency. This is the major theme where all other flaws can really fall into this category. The Celtics have shown flashes of brilliance: in Game 2 we shot 51% from the field and 45% from 3pt. We only had 10 turnovers. Perk was the only one in the front line that was in foul trouble. We moved the ball. We played great team defense (made our rotations, forced Orlando to take difficult shots) alongside some good shooting, giving all of our starters a positive plus/minus rating (Pierce +12, Baby +19, Perk +10, Ray +19, Rondo +25). We won this game easily (112-94) despite Orlando shooting well from the field. Our best was better than their best. The Celtics have also shown what a tired team can look like: Game 1 when we were down 20+ points in the 3rd, Game 3 when we shoot 28% from 3pt and look flat from the get go, Game 6 with letting Dwight rip down 10 offensive boards and the Celts with 19 turnovers. Yes: 19 turnovers. Great athletes are consistent and great teams are consistent. We need to play with the same level of focus, intensity, and energy every night. I know that this team is tired, but they have to come out firing and aggressive to make this Orlando team throw in the towel nice and early.

The Ray we need: clinic-style shooting form and with a snipers accuracy.

The Ray we need: clinic-style shooting form and a sniper's accuracy.

Ray. In this series, Ray is 23-75 FG (30.6%) and 5-36 from behind the line, amounting to 13.8%. If we just see half of Ray from behind the 3pt line we will be made in the shade. I know Orlando has covered him well, but he just looks out of sorts. Ray has had shots that haven’t even drawn iron and open looks that didn’t fall. Ray just doesn’t look smooth. His clinic-like style of shooting isn’t there: he isn’t squared up, he’s infrequently getting the ball where he wants it (because of tight coverage and sloppy passes by Rondo), and just generally not getting clean looks. The Magic are playing him well, but we need to work harder to get him open: Baby needs set better screens (non-moving) and Perk needs to find the gas to make a few more runs to set additional screens. Again: if we just see half of Rays 41% from 3pt in Game 7, I think we’ll breath a bit easier.

Can they both catch on in the same game?

Can they both catch on in the same game?

Turnovers. The enemy of the regular season returns. In the CHI series, the Celts kept their TOs down to about 12/game– giving up the ball 19 times in Game 4 (which we loss) but only giving it up 11 times in the Game 6 triple overtime. The key there? Rondo had 0 TOs in 58 minutes of the 3OT game. In this series, Rondo has been giving the ball away as if he gets paid by the turnover: 7 in Game 1, 3 in Game 2, 3 in Game 4, 3 in Game 5, 5 in Game 6. In this series, he’s turned it over 22 times with 1 game left. In the CHI series? 15 times… but in SO MNY EXTRA MINUTES of play because of all of the OTs. If Rondo takes care of the ball, the rest of the team will, too. As Rondo goes, so go the Celts.

Perk, Pierce, Baby. This is more of a plea: just please do what you’ve been doing. Perk: take Dwight out of the game by muscling him around and getting the best position possible. No one talks about Perk’s ability to take Dwight away from rebounds by boxing him out, thus allowing Rondo to clean up under the glass. No way Rondo is averaging 12 boards a game without Perk. Pierce: make your 18 footers and keep taking it to the hoop early on. Establish a presence in the paint, and then move your game in and out. Easier said than done, I know. But we all trust you will come through tomorrow night. Baby: don’t bite off more than you can chew right now: don’t back in Dwight like you are a premier post player. Take your jumper to help create space in the paint (for Rondo, Pierce, and even Ray), and crash the boards. When Rondo makes his way into the paint, slide in under the hoop once Dwight leaves you to double Rondo.

It probably doesn’t take a genius to know why they have been so inconsistent: they are a tired team and they are short-handed. Their front court is only made up of 3 guys. Orlando has a great perimeter defender in Courtney Lee that has for the most part, taken away our best shooters (Ray and Eddie). Rashard Lewis provides a matchup nightmare for Baby and Scal. But despite these issues, we are tied up at 3 games a piece. We have lost 3 games in this series because of us– the Magic have given us everything they have, playing at their ceiling, and able to win games because of our own mistakes. Now, you have to give some credit to them for maintaining some level of consistency, but remember what I said earlier: their best just doesn’t match up to our best.

Dan Brown might be able to write a 67-week #1 New York Times Bestseller book on the mystery of inconsistency of the Celts in this ORL series. The big question is who would Tom Hanks play in the movie version? Big Baby, Perk, or Ray?

Let’s hope the Celts team we know is there shows up Sunday night. I’ll take the Celts in Game 7: 97-88.

Endnote • I’ll pick the Lakers in Game 7, but I hope I’m wrong. I think the Kobe/Lebron Finals hype is too much. I’d rather see Houston take LA, Houston take Denver, and then see if Lebron can run over 2 of our leagues best defenders (Battier & Artest)– the answer is probably yes. Also, a great article about how Nadal has taken the #1 ranking away from Roger… and probably for good. Finally, be sure to check out the commercials below on what life would be like if Lebron and Kobe were roommates. And puppets.

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